In Tijuana

I met my friend Peter in my freshman year of college. He was one of the "older ones" in this college ministry my roommates brought me to and because of this, I quickly categorized him as one of them and that was that. But over the years, I have learned that he doesn't quite reflect the person he seemed to be. And that his heart is a lot bigger and his dreams are much more far-reaching than I had imagined. But that's another story on its own.

I still remember the day during my junior year, when Peter announced he was leaving school for Tijuana, Mexico to train with Radius and to love on the people there, a city filled with violence and fear. And so, this is one of the stories he brought back with him. It's a simple story, but complicated at the same time. It's a short story, but left me with so much heaviness that I had to read it several times over. It challenges religion with faith; it extrudes sorrow, but sorrow that is enveloped by a great hope. So please enjoy this view. Enjoy the comfort for the grieved and the hope for the hopeless. And let this sobering tale transcend bias and definitions as it perhaps evokes your own emotions of empathy.


In the fleeting moments just before the rising sun penetrates the remnants of the previous night, the fog is steadily lifted and a new day has finally dawned. The air is crisp from the ocean breeze flooding the city from the west. And the city is now abuzz from the anxieties of the market drowning the air from the east. Tijuana, Mexico – home to 1.3 million individuals. Yet, all I see is one.

Young, slender, and unassuming – a boy, no more than 15 years old, stood at the street’s corner with his eyes fixated on a smaller child skipping away in the uniform I’ve come to readily identify as belonging to students of the local elementary school. Blissfully counting his steps towards another day chockfull of coloring books and reciting the alphabet, the small boy turns back to his older brother and waves with a smile, greeting the adventures the new day has generously provided.

An avid observer, I was overwhelmed with admiration by the beautiful display of brotherly affection. My tear-filled eyes met my trembling hands as I thanked God for the dawn of a new day. Then, all at once, I was overcome again by what I saw…

With fists clenched glued to his side, the young boy I came to hold in such high-esteem hadn’t moved an inch. Instead, I realized my tears weren’t the only ones the new day brought to light. And like a rushing wind, the indescribable sense of peace I had felt just moments before were immediately replaced by an immensely weighty emotion, most closely associated with concern and confusion.

What could possibly ruin this cinematic-like portrayal of familial protection? Why was the perfect start to the morning disrupted and dismantled so suddenly without admonition? Who was to blame?

To this day, I don’t know your name. In fact, I know very little to nothing about who you really are. And still, I felt closer to you that morning than I could attempt to describe. The rage and resentment in your fists and the regret and remorse in your tears have left a lasting impression – one I won’t be able to drown out by the noise of busy mornings. Whatever burden you’re attempting to bear on your own is having its way with you, tossing and turning you, whimsically in spite of you.

You’re not okay. And the best news you will ever hear… is that’s okay.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28

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